Winter isn’t coming—in central Illinois, it’s here! Some may be tempted to hole up and wait for spring. But winter provides an opportunity for great family fun, as well.
Many cold-weather activities can be especially enjoyable for kids but, as always, we have to make sure their safety is a top priority to prevent personal injury whenever possible.
Who better to turn to for advice on kids and winter than our neighbors to the north? The Canadian Pediatric Society has a helpful discussion of winter safety advice for parents and kids on their website.
Here are a few winter safety tips from them and other experts on how to make sure our younger loved ones stay warm and well this winter.
Keeping warm is critical to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Layering clothes work best. Babies and young children generally need one more layer than an adult would wear in the same conditions. Accessories are most important—a warm hat, hand covering (mittens are warmer than gloves), and a good pair of dry warm boots protect important areas of heat loss.
For the youngest children, drawstrings and tied scarves can catch on climbing or play equipment and pose a choking hazard. Attachment with snaps or Velcro is safer.
Infants being pulled in a sled or pushed in a stroller need extra bundling in cold temperatures; since they’re not moving, they don’t generate the body heat a playing child does.
Strongly consider keeping them indoors in extreme weather conditions or whenever the temperature or wind chill drops below zero.
Check on them often to be sure they’re staying warm and dry. Regular breaks to come inside for a warm drink and stay hydrated are a good idea. It’s also a good time to remove wet clothing.
Children under 8 are best supervised by an adult during outdoor play.
Surprisingly, sun exposure is still hazardous even when it’s cold or cloudy—apply and reapply sunscreen to exposed areas.
Help them select sledding locations that are at an incline of less than 30°, clear of obstructions like trees or fences, and away from highways or roads. It is best to sled in areas you know well, as a stump or large rock could be covered by snow and present a major hazard to a sledding child.
Sledding feet-first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, will help prevent injuries.
Teach kids to slide down the middle of the hill, move quickly out of the way once at the bottom of the hill, and climb up along the sides. It is best to keep little kids sledding away from bigger kids.
Provide appropriate helmets for all activities like sledding, ice skating, snowboarding, snowmobiling, etc.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children under 16 do not operate snowmobiles and that children younger than 6 never ride on them, even with an adult. For whatever it’s worth, I’d recommend against letting children snowmobile at any age.
Whenever possible, skate on public indoor or outdoor rinks. Never assume it’s safe to skate on a lake or pond. An adult should make sure the ice is at least 4 inches thick for solo skating or 8 inches for skating in groups.
Bonfires and portable heating devices can help keep us cozy, but be especially careful and mindful with the youngest around them.
Winter is also a tricky time for traveling with kids still in car seats. Bulky winter coats and snowsuits can be hazardous when worn underneath the harness of a car seat, and generally, you should buckle a child up without their coat on. The fluffy padding can flatten out under force, leaving extra space under the harness that a child can slip through and be thrown from the seat.
Better to dress in multiple snug, close-fitting, thin layers with a warm fleece jacket over the top. Take extra time to tighten the straps and ensure a tight fit. A blanket or warm coat that they’ll use outside the car can be added over the seat for extra warmth.
Here’s hoping this winter isn’t too severe and that we all stay safe while making some great memories with our kids and loved ones!